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Pinchbeck Rose Farm
Guilford, Connecticut - 2005

Tom Pinchbeck is the fourth generation in the family business of growing roses. The farm in Guilford, Connecticut, began in 1929 with the present owner’s great grandfather. William Pinchbeck, Jr., built a single span iron-framed greenhouse twelve-hundred feet long and eighty-one feet wide. His aim to build five identical structures was derailed by the Great Depression; in 1936 he added only one, half the length. Vestiges of the past are still visible in the small office. An unusually long, horizontal picture of the first greenhouse is actually a series of photographs pasted together; it hangs fading on the wall. Still in the desk drawer is the Lord & Burnham catalog from which Pinchbeck, Jr. ordered his greenhouses to be built by the Lord & Burnham crew. Inside, his calculations are scrawled in pencil, multiplying the cost of the preferred width times the number of modular sections needed to build the original structure, which remains the largest glass greenhouse in the world.

The farm was sustained by Pinchbeck, Jr.’s son William E. and his wife Harriett, and later by their son William W. with his wife Kristine. Their son, Tom, joined the year his grandmother passed away in 1991. Pinchbeck Roses is the sole surviving rose grower in Connecticut, and the only year round rose grower in the Northeast. Today, between seventy and eighty percent of roses on the market are grown in Columbia and Ecuador; some are flown in from as far away as Israel. The warm climates, cheap labor, and unregulated use of pesticides in other countries all reduce overhead, and have contributed to putting two-thirds of rose growers in the U.S. out of business since the 1980s. The Pinchbecks have adapted methods throughout a century to cut costs.

In some ways, the farm seems stopped in time. Cows mill casually about the perimeter of the old farmhouse where the family continues to live. Two gigantic wood burning boilers that were installed in 1978 by the McBurney Company still hear the greenhouses. Previously, the boilers were fueled by oil, and before that, coal, but since the energy crisis of the 1970s, the family reverted and now uses recycled wood. Discarded Christmas trees, sawdust, wood chips, and old pallets feed the boilers and the steam they produce generates electricity, reducing the farm’s consumption of public utilities and even providing extra to sell back to Northeast Light & Power. While 90,000 rose bushes still need to be hand-cut twice per day, an automated irrigation system has replaced hand watering. Pinchbeck still serves the Boston and New York markets with three million blooms per year in fifteen varieties.
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